Weeks after I started my first year of full-time teaching at a four-year university, I came across this letter in my twitter feed. I found Stewart’s advice useful, echoing what my relation-centered, yet quietly active mentors have told me since I started the academic career journey almost 15 years ago.
In this first year, to emotionally and spiritually survive:
- I maintained strong engagement in social media groups catered to my overlapping social categories (i’ll explain why not identities in a sec)
- I participated in #saturdayschool and #scholarsunday as much as I could
- I scheduled monthly dinners at my house, deciding to limit to those with whom I had established consistent social-professional relationships (time spent is a needed professional love language)
- I sought out and sustained lunch and coffee dates with colleagues, not just those in my department
- I had writing accountability partners off campus as well as on campus
- I did my best to maintain weekly engagement with mentors
I did more than the following, these practices, however, maintained my sense of humanity through the process. Back in my hometown, trying to figure out how to transition out of the scavenger scholar identity I had ‘formulated’ in my non-full-time teaching years. I know the archive work that will define my career for as long as possible, I also know that archival work is going to be extensive and a dance of strategic negotiations because within my home fields, my activism and my interdisciplinarity are suspect. Peers and senior scholars will still see me as a student of a movement porque el chisme/bochinche es mas facil que compartir tiempo.
I will eventually need to stop squealing about the work that I do. Not because I don’t love it, more because the look in colleagues and senior colleagues’ eyes when I get animated and passionate…there will be those who disagree about withholding, but this is the kind of love I share with my closest/longest friends, who are not (straight) academics. Economic survival requires participating in the ‘race for theory’ Barbara Christian warned us about in the 1980s. You’re meaningless till you’re published, even among those who ache for greater representation. As applauded as those who question it are, they’re not the most cited/most successful, unless they’ve done the other work to keep their job.
Staying employed matters, the scavenger scholar wanted to be visible between freelance work, part-time work, and unstable grant-funded positions. Now that ‘public intellectual’ is no longer needed to sustain visibility, I can focus on writing on the queer theory, participatory action methodology and ‘becoming’ training I have had over the years.
I minimized blogging because I had four courses to teach; I also debated on the extent to which I would continue contributing to blogs, considering the lack of peer-reviewed articles I had written. I have submitted, dealt with rejection and will resubmit one, and revisit another after I publish the article that I wrote on the theoretical concerns of that first article. I have forty annotations, a co-authored proposal, and that archive project to focus on stabilizing this summer.
In this analysis, my students have not been discussed. The status of education is why. I love my students, not in the ‘they’re perfect’ kind of way, nor in the ‘it’s my job to save them from the failures of education’ kind of way. I had to let go of the latter given the systemic turns about to befall all levels of education. I consider Dr. Stewart’s advice in “Just because you’re magic,” which I linked earlier. Zir was right and offered a critical model by which to understand ‘being a possibility.’ For my students, I echoed that by sharing my mother, sister and brother with them. Because of the ways each of us, yes my mom too, follow the mantra “you will have to be better than and do more than the others” (Stewart, 2016). Following it means coming to terms with the ‘leaving’ I had done, the ‘leaving’ I encourage students to do. The ‘leaving’ that may not allow us to ‘come back for the ones we leave behind,’ to pull from Sandra Cisneros’s House on Mango Street.
I used to struggle with that, from my first day of formal field notes, I realize that coming back for the ones left behind is now considering the respect of those who can’t out, those who want to create opportunities of return and never leaving. Making peace with not being one of them is the summer goal. Not only because I love where I’ve gone, who I’ve met, and the lives they have shared with me but because protecting the dual lives that Stewart calls people like me to have, requires the ability to be mobile, flexible, and constantly moving/growing.